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Navigating Your Career Journey: 5 Ways to Reach Your Career Development Goals

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Businesses across the globe are looking to bounce back from the pandemic as they shift from leaner, reactive working models to a period of growth. Certain industries are evolving faster than others, but it seems technology is leading the charge as organizations lean on remote-first working models and accompanying tech innovations.

Many candidates are turning toward upskilling and other certifications to learn new technical skills, meet employer demand, and set themselves apart from the competition.

And whether they're coming back from a resume gap or breaking into a brand new industry, a successful transition requires careful evaluation, planning, and setting actionable career development goals. In short, the path from hopeful candidate to successful employee lies in:

  • Setting career development goals
  • Evaluating how well your existing profile aligns with your goals
  • Creating an action plan to fill gaps and progress in your career journey

This post will highlight 5 ways candidates can define and reach their career development goals as they look to make a successful return to the workforce.

1. Evaluate Your Soft Skills & Experience

As you reflect on your work history, you may feel limited by the specific roles and industries where you have the most experience. However, you likely possess many skill adjacencies that can boost your candidate profile and make for a great fit in your new industry or position.

Nearly all of your previous experience — regardless of industry — contains transferable skills. For example, almost every job includes some level of customer service, a central skill set for IT support. The customer service experience you may have gained in a retail store, at a doctor's office, or at a bank still plays a vital role in your resume and contributes to your overall skill set, regardless of how you'll apply it in your next position.

You may add these transferrable skills to your resume after you've chosen an industry or specific role to pursue, but you can also use them to identify related skill sets and inform your future career choices. Regardless of where you are in your career journey, you should take pride in your experience and ensure it's reflected in your resume to give recruiters a complete view of your talents and skills.

2. Paint a Holistic Picture of Yourself

When identifying your dream job or choosing your next career move, it's easy to get caught up in the details of the role itself. And while the day-to-day responsibilities, potential for growth, compensation, title, etc., are essential to keep in mind, you should also consider how your personality and character traits play into the equation.

Career pathing and setting career development goals require that you first take some time to understand yourself, asking questions like:

  • What types of work environments do I flourish in?
  • What are my intangible strengths outside of technical skills?
  • What professional skills do I actually want to use at my next job?

Just because you possess a skill or ability doesn't mean you find it fulfilling. Personality and career assessments can help you uncover the answers to questions like these and give you a holistic view of your strengths, weaknesses, and preferences as they relate to a career.

It can be tempting to expand your career options by disregarding your personal preferences, but this approach isn't likely to pay off in the long run. The best job to have is one that fulfills your passions and supports long-term career growth.

With that in mind, you can also assess your talents outside of traditional work experience. Consider past volunteer work, passion projects, or personal undertakings. Which ones did you enjoy the most? Are there any non-traditional skills you could nurture into a full-time career? This self-reflection is key to determining what position will not only grow your career but your character as well.

3. Set Realistic Expectations

Armed with your comprehensive skill set, assessment results, and other personal factors, it's time to start weighing out your career options. As you browse job listings or research potential positions online, it's critical to evaluate not only what type of change you want to make but why you want to make it in the first place.

Several factors can propel your job search or career transition. Perhaps you're coming back from a resume gap, or maybe you're finally taking the plunge and pursuing a long-time passion as a professional career. No matter your motivation, staying honest with yourself and setting realistic career goals is essential.

For example, the 'average earnings' associated with a position don't always reflect your region or the current job market, so choosing a career based on earning potential can be detrimental down the line. That doesn't mean you should accept the lowest salary on the market or take compensation out of your criteria, but you shouldn't make your next move purely on financial motivation. You spend a majority of your time at work, so it needs to be a productive, enjoyable environment and a profitable one.

Another critical element to consider is your industry. To start, decide whether you'll stay in a known industry to break into a new one. While it's typically easier to stay within a familiar industry or sector, it's not required. However, it's valuable to be realistic and understand the pros and cons of each potential career development plan before you commit to a path forward.

4. Bring Your Resume Up to Speed

Resume creation is a massive milestone in your career development journey. In many cases, it's your first chance to catch the attention of recruiters and hiring managers, so it's critical that it reflects the complete view of who you are and where your most valuable skills lie.

As you start putting together your resume, you'll likely be flooded with online advice, templates, and tips to create the 'right' resume for your potential employers. However, it's important to take the information you find online with a grain of salt and commit to the option that showcases your candidate profile the best.

In many cases, candidates feel bound by the unofficial 'one-page rule' that insists your entire resume should be no more than one page long, regardless of your experience. Condensing two decades of experience into one page can be just as harmful as filling up a sparse resume with wordy sentences to appear more qualified than you actually are. And it's not worth selling yourself short based on a space constraint that won't disqualify you.

You should also steer clear of automated resume generators — paying a flat fee for a pre-formatted resume with your skills and related keywords pasted in. Employers often flag these resumes as it's easy to spot when a candidate didn't the content themselves.

You are a subject matter expert on yourself, which means you're the most qualified to write and refine your professional resume. Plus, you can lean on a more personalized, interactive resume builder to ensure you put the right information in the right place without sounding like a robot or leaving out high-value skills.

Remember, your resume should grow along with your experiences. Take the time to refine and update it regularly so you can always put your best foot forward and ensure you don't miss any valuable details.

5. Ask for Help Along the Way

Navigating the job market requires the right mix of planning, patience, and perseverance. Not every career path or career development plan is linear, and it can feel overwhelming to tackle everything that comes your way, especially if you're actively employed during your job search.

Whether you're just starting to identify potential career paths or you're deep into the job search, a career planning partner can help you:

  • Create a long-term career path that encompasses multiple positions and advancement opportunities.
  • Strengthen your resume with upskilling courses, resume tips, and assessments.
  • Prepare for your next job interview or similar evaluation.
  • Create a 360 candidate profile with a resume, video introduction, personalized bio, and more.
  • Access a career mentor for ongoing support and expert recommendations.

The right career development partner helps you navigate uncertainty and turn any potential fears or hesitations into new, exciting opportunities. Together, you'll build a long-term career path that will support your growth for years to comes. Your partner shouldn't simply be there to help you update your resume then send you on your way; they should support you over time and show a genuine investment in your career success.


At CareerCircle, we help candidates reach their career goals and match them to right-fit employers through our exclusive talent network. We're here to support you at every turn with upskilling resources, return-to-work programs, mentorship, and more. Our career advocacy services and exclusive access to digital upskilling and certification programs enable us to open new doors for our members and promote equity in the workforce.

Reach out to our team today to see how we can help you reach your career development goals and support your ongoing career journey.